I'm pleased to welcome R. Michael Phillips to the blog today. BETWEEN GOOD AND EVIL is the first book in the Auburn Notch Mystery series and was released earlier this year.
Kathy: I admit to a fascination of asylums of the 19th and early 20th century and have visited a few. Have you visited any asylums?
RMP: I never gave them too much thought until I started the book, now I can’t wait to visit one. I’ve located one outside of London I might have to peek inside my next time over. There’s another one close to me in Pennsylvania I’d like to stop by.
Kathy: Is Willis Asylum based on an actual asylum?
RMP: The Willis Asylum is a combination of a few different abandoned buildings I came across while doing the research for the book. I blended the creepier parts together and then worked backwards to strip away the decay to give it a dignified beginning.
Kathy: Setting plays an integral part in mysteries, sometimes becoming a character unto itself. What makes Auburn Notch the perfect setting for BETWEEN GOOD AND EVIL.
RMP: Auburn Notch is a fictional town nestled beneath the shadows of the White Mountains in New Hampshire. New England was a center for industry at the turn of the century, and has always been an idyllic spot for vacationing. It’s kind of the last place you would expect to find crimes with a surprising twist, so I felt it was a good place to establish the town. You’re right about the setting becoming a character in the book. The freshness of the mountain air has a cleansing affect on Promise Flynn, and completely different from the gritty streets of Chicago she left behind. Then, in an instant, winter rolls in and it turns icy cold, just like the hand of death. Who could ask for more out of a setting?
Kathy: What first drew you to mysteries?
RMP: I’ve read mysteries all my life. Whodunits. Thrillers. Suspense—everything from Agatha Christie to Robert Parker. I guess I just enjoy a good puzzle, so I decided to create a few of my own.
Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?
RMP: I’ve always heard it is best to write what you know about, so I write mysteries, just mysteries. In that same respect, I also use settings I’m very familiar with—New Hampshire for the Auburn Notch Mysteries, and London for the Ernie Bisquets Mysteries.
Kathy: Tell us about your series.
RMP: The Auburn Notch Mysteries is a brand new series for me, set in New England. It combines a tough female protagonist with a past she is trying to put behind her, and crimes that aren’t what they appear to be in a setting where they would never be expected. This series is a little darker with a heightened suspense level than my other series.
My other series is the Ernie Bisquets Mysteries. It’s centered around a retired pickpocket in contemporary London who has decided he is going to help the London police with their more challenging cases—whether they want his help or not. These are English cozies, so the characters are quirky, and the crimes are intricate puzzles.
Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?
RMP: That’s a tough choice. Right now I have to say Ernie Bisquets is my favorite. I’ve written 3 books in his series, and have just started the 4th. Ernie is a true character, and someone I think anybody would enjoy meeting—just make sure you still have your wallet before he walks away. I’m just getting to know Promise Flynn, so there’s a good chance she’ll be right up there with Ernie soon enough. One of these days it might be fun to introduce them to each other in a story.
Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?
RMP: I’ve been writing the London-based series for so long I wanted to change things up a bit. I’ve been kicking around new characters and plots for a while now, but some didn’t seem to work well in a London setting. Then I took a trip back up to New England and it hit me—why not start a new series?
Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?
RMP: As tough as writing a book is, finding a publisher is even tougher. This was the goal I set for myself when I started the first book. Writing a book is an accomplishment in itself, but to be published and distributed adds a great deal of credibility to that accomplishment. I decided no matter how long it took, I was going to find a traditional publisher that believed in my work as much as I do. I was thrilled when I got the offer from Sunbury Press for the new series. They will also be publishing the next book in the Bisquets’ series.
Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?
RMP: Charles Dickens, for his thoughts on today’s social and political climate; Oscar Wilde, for his wit; Robert Parker, for his exceptional grasp of dialog; and Dorothy Parker, because she could make any gathering of authors an event worth attending.
Kathy: What are you currently reading?
RMP: I’m just finishing Peter Ackroyd’s FOUNDATION—the history of England from its earliest beginnings to the Tudors, and CHOICE OF ENEMIES by M.A. Richards.
Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?
RMP: I’m a classically trained artist, so I always have a painting or two on my easels going at all times. Painting helps me think when I’m stuck on a plot direction.
Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.
RMP: Cream Of Wheat, Clotted Cream (great on scones,) Wise Potato Chips, and Cinnamon Raisin Bread. I’m a man of simple tastes.
Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?
RMP: I’m very excited to tell you I’ve turned in the 2nd book in the Auburn Notch Mysteries. If all goes well with editing and book jacket design, it should be released by the end of the year. I’ve also started book 4 in the Ernie Bisquets Mysteries. I have a very complete outline, so I intend to get this one done by the end of summer. Look for an early 2017 release for that. I also have outlines for 1 more book in each series, so I’ll be pretty busy for the next year or two.
Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?
RMP: I have to say the best part of being an author for me is meeting new people at book signing events. There is a great energy there, and I really enjoy the feedback about the series. I’ve incorporated a number of ideas into storylines we’ve come up with at these events. Mystery readers are very devoted to their genre and like being surprised, so I do everything I can to accomplish that for them in my books.
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